Proposal (157) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name of Notharchus macrorhynchos to "Guianan Puffbird"


Effect on South American Check-list: With the passage of Proposal #125, we have recognized Notharchus hyperrhynchus as a species distinct from Notharchus macrorhynchos (White-necked Puffbird) thereby adding a species to our list. N. hyperrhynchus is in need of an English name, but we should first evaluate whether retention of the former name of "White-necked Puffbird" for N. macrorhynchos is appropriate given the split. This proposal would change the English name of N. macrorhynchos.


Background: See Proposal #125. We are now recognizing two species (a monotypic N. macrorhynchos; and a polytypic N. hyperrhynchus, consisting of N. h. hyperrhynchus, and N. h. paraensis), whereas our list formerly recognized only one (N. macrorhynchos).


Analysis: There are basically two choices in how to deal with English names resulting from a split such as this one. One option is to formulate entirely new names for both resulting species. This option is attractive in the sense that it reserves the "old" name for the former, more inclusive species, thereby negating confusion whenever the "old" name appears in the literature. The down side of this option is that we lose the stability of an established name. Option two is to retain the established name for one of the two species resulting from the split, and find a new name for the other species. In such cases, I think that it is most common to retain the established name for the nominate form of the species.


In the present case, I think that retention of the name "White-necked Puffbird" for N. macrorhynchos would be inappropriate. The established English name of "White-necked Puffbird" was based on the prominence of the wide white hind collar of hyperrhynchus and paraensis, which collectively, occupied the vast majority of the range of what was N. macrorhynchos. By comparison, the nominate, or "true" N. macrorhynchos has a very narrow white hind collar. N. hyperrhynchus is also much more geographically widespread (occurring from Mexico to the lower Amazon), and is the "White-necked Puffbird" with which the vast majority of ornithologists and birders are familiar. Most Notharchus have a white hind collar of some sort; it is in N. hyperrhynchus that this collar is most conspicuous. Application of the name "White-necked" to the now monotypic N. macrorhynchos would be misleading and confusing. Assuming that a new English name is needed for N. macrorhynchos, the question becomes, "what to call it"?


N. macrorhynchos is yet another black-and-white puffbird that represents a variation on the common theme of the genus Notharchus. Original descriptive names that adequately point out the salient field characters that separate this species from other members of the group are, at best, hard to come by. At the same time, the use of "White-necked Puffbird" as a group name (as in "Western White-necked Puffbird" and "Eastern White-necked Puffbird") would not only be awkward and ugly, but would probably be misleading in the sense that I do not believe (based on vocal characters) that macrorhynchos and hyperrhynchus/paraensis are one-another’s' closest relatives.


Given that macrorhynchos is found only in E Venezuela, the Guianas, and extreme N Brazil south to the left bank of the Amazon, it is essentially a Guianan bird, and the only member of its family restricted to that geographic area. Therefore, I think the English name of "Guianan Puffbird" would be both informative, and particularly appropriate.


Recommendation: For the above reasons, I recommend a "YES" vote on changing the English name of Notharchus macrorhynchos from "White-necked Puffbird" to "Guianan Puffbird". A "NO" vote would be a vote to retain "White-necked Puffbird" as the English name for N. macrorhynchos, even though the name is based on the prominent white "neck" of N. hyperrhynchus. Proposal #158 will focus on how to deal with the English name of N. hyperrhynchus.


Kevin J. Zimmer, December 2004




Comments from Robbins: "YES. Kevin's rationale for changing the English name of Notharchus macrorhynchos from White-necked to Guianan Puffbird seems reasonable."


Comments from Jaramillo: "YES. Reasonable change, minimizes confusion."


Comments from Stiles: "YES. If "White-necked" is not appropriate for macrorhynchos, the species epithet with which it has long been associated, it seems better to leave it for (or bury it with) the inclusive species and use "Guianan" for macrorhynchos in the restricted sense."


Comments from Remsen: "YES. If we leave White-necked for hyperrhynchus, I see no alternative better than Kevin's "Guianan" for macrorhynchus."


Comments from Pacheco: "YES. Considero apropriado. O nome pode ser imediatamente associado ao "Guianan Shield", que vem a ser a área 'core' de distribuição do táxon."


Comments from Nores: "NO. A pesar de que el análisis hecho por Zimmer aparece como muy apropiado, tiene un serio problema. Notharchus swainsoni, cuyo rango abarca gran parte de Sudamérica tropical y subtropical es generalmente considerado una subespecie de N. macrorhynchos (Olrog 1968, de Schauensee 1970, Howard y Moore 1980, Sick 1984, Hilty y Brown 1986, Stotz et al. 1996, Mazar-Barnett y Pearman 2001, Narosky e Yzurieta 2003). Si estudios moleculares o de otro tipo muestran que esto es así, el nombre de "Guianan Puffbird" para N. macrorhynchos sería inapropiado. Como todos estamos de acuerdo en que el nombre White-necked Puffbird también es inapropiado para N. macrorhynchos yo propongo que busquemos otro nombre para esta especie."